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Dennis Rodman returns to North Korea hoping 'to open the door'

19 June 2017

Otto Warmbier, the American college student detained in North Korea for more than 17 months, was returned Tuesday to his hometown of Cincinnati.

North Korean state-run media said early past year that Warmbier was arrested for what they described as "a hostile act" against the regime. "We wish him well, but we have issued travel warnings to Americans and suggested they not travel to North Korea for their own safety", U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon told reporters after discussing the North Korean missile threat and other issues with Japanese counterparts. On January 2nd, 2016, he was arrested while trying to leave the country with his tour group and accused of stealing a propaganda poster.

In rare high-level contacts, Yun met senior North Korean officials in Oslo in May, where it was agreed Swedish officials in Pyongyang, who handle USA consular affairs there, would be allowed to see all four American detainees, a State Department official said.

The family also released a statement saying that officials in North Korea told them that Otto Warmbier had become ill with botulism and had been in a coma for well over a year now.

However, CNN also reports that another senior official from the State Department said the U.S. hadn't confirmed "the North Korean version of events" as of Tuesday evening and were still waiting on medical confirmation for the exact cause of Warmbier's coma.

But he noted that the State Department is continuing "to have discussions" with North Korea about the release of other three American citizens who are jailed there.

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"Dennis Rodman had nothing to do with the release of Mr. Warmbier", said Heather Nauert, a State Department spokeswoman.

Warmbier's parents were told their son was given a sleeping pill soon after his trial in March past year and never woke.

Wyoming community members decked out the town in blue and white ribbons ready to welcome home Otto Warmbier, who has been held prisoner in North Korea for 18 months.

Otto Warmbier's parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, confirmed in a statement that their son is in a coma.

American student Otto Warmbier, seen here arriving for his trial in Pyongyang in March 2016. FILE - In this January 8, 2014, file photo, former NBA star Dennis Rodman sings Happy Birthday to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, seated above in the stands, before an exhibition basketball game at an indoor stadium in Py.

After North Korea conducted several ballistic missile tests earlier this year, Trump has made it clear he would put an end to what he called Obama's "strategic patience". Speaking to reporters in Beijing before his arrival in Pyongyang on Tuesday, he said that the issue of several Americans detained by North Korea is "not my objective right now".

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"FILE â€" In this February 29, 2016 file photo, American student Otto Warmbier speaks to reporters in Pyongyang, North Korea.

The North has occasionally jailed United States citizens on charges ranging from hostile acts to illegal entry, and released them only after visits by high-profile figures including former president Bill Clinton.

He had not been seen in public since, and Swedish diplomats, representing US interests, had been denied consular access to him. The few reports that exist about the conference said he admitted to bribing North Korean residents for information about Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.

The 56-year-old NBA Hall of Famer, who was heavily criticized for failing to raise the plight of a jailed U.S. missionary on a previous trip, said discussing detained United States citizens was "not my objective right now". Here's what we know about the three Americans who are believed to remain in North Korean custody.

Republican Sen. Rob Portman says North Korea should be "universally condemned for its abhorrent behavior".

Any visit to North Korea by a high-profile American is a political minefield, and Rodman has been criticized for failing to use his influence on leaders who are otherwise isolated diplomatically from the rest of the world. He worked at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.

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He was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years hard labor.

Dennis Rodman returns to North Korea hoping 'to open the door'